It's recommended that seniors get a flu shot every year. As our bodies age, it becomes more difficult for our immune system to stave off even an ordinary cold. This guide will help you understand why you need a flu shot, how to boose your immune system, and other ways to prevent getting the flu.
Why the older immune system is weakened
Lymphocytes are essential cells that produce antibodies to battle infections. They become less efficient as we age, putting up a fight for shorter periods of time and there are fewer of them. Even the body’s natural reaction to attacking an infection – launching a fever to burn off troublemaking cells – can go AWOL, allowing bacteria to run amok. One in five people over 65 years with severe bacterial infections won’t show a fever.
Strengthening your immune system
Here are some ways to get your immune system in tiptop shape:
Take a multi-vitamin. Choose one that’s targeted to your age and gender. If all the choices available in vitamins, herbs and supplements become overwhelming, choose a good, solid multi-vitamin with the Pharmacopia seal. Research is mixed as to whether or not the herb Echinacea boosts the immune system, though some say it can lessen the duration of a cold and its symptoms. It should be taken as soon as any cold symptoms pop up and for no longer than eight weeks.
Drink water. Far too often, older people think that tea, coffee and sodas are all the liquids they need. Actually, they all can cause damage and dehydrate rather than hydrate. A food pyramid designed specifically for older adults by the Center on Aging at Tufts University illustrates the base of the pyramid as being nothing but glasses of water. Given the multiple medications older people take, it is essential that they cleanse their body and keep their blood flow circulating so organs stay healthy. Eight eight-ounce glasses of water per day is recommended.
Eat for your immune system. Good nutrition can really prop up a weakened immune system. Fruits and vegetables are at the top of the list, as these foods often double as antioxidants (such as blueberries), which prevent damage to cells. Green tea and vitamins C and E are also antioxidants. Stay clear of high-fat foods and reach for sources of lean protein. It turns out that the amino acids found in lean protein are critical components to revving up your immune system. Fish (especially salmon), lean poultry, soy products, eggs, beans, and tofu are all good sources of lean protein. Avoid trans fats (read the food labels) often found in processed foods, snacks and margarine, as they’ll cause your immune system to work overtime and deplete your ability to fight off infections. Yogurt, on the other hand, deploys an army of good bacteria to detoxify your intestinal tract, staving off potential infections.
Don’t forget to exercise. Being overweight affects how all of your organs function, which overtaxes an already vulnerable immune system. Studies have shown that people who exercise moderately are four times less likely to come down with colds than their overweight counterparts.
The bottom line
As our bodies age, it becomes more difficult to stave off even an ordinary cold. This is why it’s recommended that seniors get a flu shot every year.
Another way to prevent getting the flu or being sick for an unnecessary length of time is strengthening the immune system, which is naturally weaker in aging bodies.
Some methods to improve your immune system include a diet heavy in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and antioxidants, drinking plenty of water, taking multivitamins and getting plenty of exercise.